Japan’s SoftBank plans to sell personal robot servants

Tech firm introduces $1,900 silicon companion capable of learning emotions

Tags: InventionJapanRobotsSoftBank Corporation
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Japan’s SoftBank plans to sell personal robot servants SoftBank’s Son consoles an emotional Pepper. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  June 5, 2014

Japan's SoftBank Corp today announced it would start consumer sales of human-like robots by February 2015, Reuters reported.

GALLERY: Meet Pepper, your personal robot

The devices and Web company said the move is a bid to address a shrinking labour market in one of the world's fastest aging societies. They are intended to serve as babysitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions and will sell for JPY198,000 ($1,900).

The company has already built a prototype named Pepper, which it demonstrated at the news event. It will be deployed this week as a customer service assistant at SoftBank mobile phone stores in Japan.

The machines will be loaded with learning software based on a cloud-sharing architecture that will allow them to mimic emotions Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son explained at a news conference.

"People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we're giving a robot a heart, emotions," Son said.

GALLERY: Meet Pepper, your personal robot

The robots were developed by French robotics specialist Aldebaran, in which SoftBank bought a stake in 2012. Mass production will be undertaken by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry, which trades as Foxconn Technologies and is also responsible for Apple's iPad and iPhone, the Amazon Kindle, Sony's PlayStation 4, Microsoft's Xbox One, and the Nintendo Wii U.

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